The waste land sits in the middle of a sentence about a building sitting on the edge of that waste land. It's an expansive vista, with one lone building. The building is called a "block," as if it's a child's toy, and it's all alone, because it's the only building in sight. We, the readers, are placed at a vantage point from which we can see this cityscape as a desolate plain, upon which there's that one block. But it's yellow. That's jazzy and hopeful.
What's going on with that building? We're not going to find out in this sentence, and whatever's around it is like a waste land, because we don't talk about the context in this Gatsby project, which is all about taking one sentence out of context, but of course we know there's a great book all around it, and that sentence is not sitting like a yellow block on the edge of a waste land.
I've been ignoring the second half of the sentence for too long. Let's examine the post-waste land segment. Our yellow block is on the edge of a waste land. If it's an edge, could there not be interesting things somewhere else? No. We're told that it's contiguous to absolutely nothing. I'm having a bit of a hard time understanding how the building can be on an edge when everything around it is nothing — absolutely nothing — especially since there's Main Street in the picture too. A sort of compact Main Street ministering to it.
That's a mystery, so I take it we need to get the message: There is a mystery here. Why does a lone yellow-brick building exist in a void and yet receive ministering?
The words building, block, yellow, brick, sitting, edge, waste, sort, compact, main, minister, contiguous, and absolute do not appear in the poem "The Waste Land." Sight and small appear, but not importantly. Land, street, and nothing are all significant:
April is the cruellest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land...So the poem begins. And very near the end:
I sat upon the shoreStreet:
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
"What shall I do now? What shall I do?Nothing:
I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
What shall we ever do?"
“What is that noise?”I really have no idea if F. Scott Fitzgerald was thinking about T.S. Eliot.
The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
Nothing again nothing.
You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”
As Bob Dylan says: "You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books/You’re very well read/It’s well known" and "And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot/Fighting in the captain’s tower/While calypso singers laugh at them/And fishermen hold flowers."
But you're probably wondering by now, what about that yellow brick? Maybe Fitzgerald was thinking about the yellow brick road in the "The Wizard of Oz" or that Elton John song.